Marching for Freedom and Claudette Colvin
Jonathan and I have both mentioned it’s a strong year for nonfiction. Of the many titles that have been recommended for my "must read" list, I’ve just finished two that bear close comparison, and both are very strong titles under Newbery Criteria. Both rely on personal interviews with people who were young activists in the Civil Rights Movement.
Phillip Hoose’s Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice tells the story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott from an angle under-represented in children’s literature. What young person reading of Rosa Parks doesn’t imagine what it must have been like to be in her tired feet in that moment? How much more amazing for them to see Colvin’s image and hear her voice? Hoose allows her voice plenty of room in his story, fleshing out the full narrative of the events leading up to and following the Boycott, but allowing the reader always to observe it through Colvin’s perspective.
Elizabeth Partridge’s Marching For Freedom: Walk Together Children, and Don’t You Grow Weary tells how young people kept the movement for the right to vote alive in Selma in the early 60s, culminating in the march from Selma to Montgomery and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Her interviews with several of those activists are knit into a tight narrative. Patridge orchestrates the story with frequent lyrics of songs sung by the protesters and marchers, keeping the story vivid and moving. The photo captions extend the story, rather than just describing the images.
Now, if this were a Mock Sibert blog, I’d go into book design, images, end matter….but the Newbery is determined solely on the text of a book. Rarely do you get two books so similar in strengths and subject to discuss under the terms of this award. I have a sense of which one I feel is stronger (I read both on the bus, but only one made me miss a stop), but I’ll need to re-read each to be able to compare the narratives more closely. For a little while would like to savor them both, side by side, uncontested.
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About Nina Lindsay
Nina Lindsay is the Children's Services Coordinator at the Oakland Public Library, CA. She chaired the 2008 Newbery Committee, and served on the 2004 and 1998 committees. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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